Here are previews of some of the Woolaston Entertainment books!
Fortune’s Wing Chapter One: The Prophecy of the Wings
Was it a dream or was it reality?
There he was, standing at the edge of a cliff, looking down at a cold, lifeless world. Buildings had crumbled and fallen. Vehicles lay upon their backs; their drivers nowhere to be seen. The streets were filled with debris. Thick black smoke blocked out the sun, and darkened a once clear blue sky. Everything was in ruins. It was so quiet, so still, as though death had waved his hand over everything in sight. Had there been an earthquake? A tornado? No, it looked like something else. Something unnatural…
Was it a dream or was it reality?
He suddenly awakened, covered in perspiration and surrounded by darkness. He reached over and switched on the small beige lamp that rested upon his night table. Looking around, he realized he was still in his bed, in his bedroom, on the second floor of his family’s house, on the same street he had lived on since he was a child.
He managed to climb out of the bed and walk over to his window. In the still of the night, he could see by the light of the street lamps, that the world he had known before he fell asleep had not changed. He breathed a sigh of relief, and flopped onto his bed. There was an unexpected knock at his bedroom door. “Yes?” he said.
The door slowly opened, and his younger sister stuck her head into the room. “Hey, Fortune,” she said as she attempted to suppress a yawn. “I was on my way to the kitchen when I noticed your light was on. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Haverdy,” Fortune replied. He forced himself to smile; despite the fact the images from his dream were still fresh in his mind.
Haverdy shook her head in disbelief. “You can’t lie to me, big brother,” she said. She clutched her robe and opened the door the rest of the way. “What’s up?”
“It was the dream again,” Fortune said with a heavy sigh.
“The one about the end of the world?” Haverdy asked.
“Yeah,” Fortune replied. “It’s always the same. Me, standing on a cliff, looking down at a world I couldn’t save.”
“You couldn’t save?” Haverdy asked as she sat on the end of her brother’s bed. “Do you think you’re supposed to save the world?”
Fortune laughed half-heartedly and looked up at the ceiling. “I don’t know,” he said. “Every time I have that dream I always have this strange guilty feeling. It’s like the world ended and it was all my fault. And now I have a feeling something big is about to happen to me.”
“Something big is about to happen to you,” Haverdy said, as-a-matter-of-factly. “You’re going to be eighteen in two days, remember?”
“Yeah, I remember,” Fortune said. “And then, school will be out for summer, and I’ll be able to leave eleventh grade behind forever. But, that’s not it. I feel like it’s something bigger.” He sighed, and shook his head. “Enough about me. Let’s talk about you. Are you going to let your hair grow this summer?”
Haverdy laughed and ran her fingers through her short, dark blond hair. “And make Mom happy? Heck no!” she said, almost in a whisper. “It’s my trademark. I can’t help it; I’m a tomboy. Sometimes I feel as if I should have been your brother instead of your sister.”
“Haverdy, do me a favor,” Fortune said, thoughtfully. “Don’t ever change, okay?”
Haverdy blinked at her brother in surprise. Still, she smiled and said, “Okay, Fortune. I won’t.” She stood up from the bed and yawned. “Try to get some sleep. Don’t let that dream bother you. Okay? It’s just a dream, nothing more.”
Fortune nodded. “Okay. Good night, Haverdy.”
“Good night, Fortune,” Haverdy said. She excused herself from his room, and returned to hers. Fortune turned off his light and rested his head upon his pillow. He sighed and whispered, “Just a dream.”
In the morning, the Oyama family had breakfast together, before separating and heading off to either school or work. Haverdy and Fortune came to the table in their school uniforms: for Fortune, black pants, a white button-up shirt and a black tie. For Haverdy, it should have been the black sleeveless dress with a white short-sleeved shirt underneath. Instead, she was wearing the boys’ uniform. When she took a seat at the table, Mrs. Oyama shook her head in disapproval. “It’s the end of the school year, Haverdy,” she said. “I hope you’re planning to wear the girls’ uniform next year.”
“We tried that already, remember?” Haverdy said, scanning the food on her plate (waffles, toast and bacon). “It doesn’t work for me. I like the boys’ uniform better. It suits me.”
“Sweetheart, you’re a girl,” Mrs. Oyama said. “More importantly, you’re becoming a young woman. You belong in more feminine clothes.”
“I think she looks cool, Mom,” Fortune said. He gave his sister a wink, and she smiled.
Mrs. Oyama turned to her husband for support. “Well?”
Mr. Oyama looked from his wife, to his daughter, then down into his mug of black coffee. “As long as she keeps her grades up, I don’t care what she wears.”
Haverdy smiled gratefully.
For Fortune Oyama, school had become a means of killing time. He had managed to maintain an A-B average throughout his high school career. Still, school didn’t interest him at all. The highlight of his day, were his friends. He always met with them at the front of Timberland High School, and they usually spent the rest of the afternoon together.
“Old man!” Duringo shouted as Fortune exited the building along with
several other students. Fortune laughed and Duringo playfully punched his arm. “I can’t believe you’re finally going to be eighteen. So, how does it feel to be an adult, Fortune?”
Fortune chuckled as he walked with his friends. “I’m not an adult yet, Ringo.”
“I don’t think adulthood should be defined by age,” Narumi said.
“Leave it to Narumi to say something profound,” Ringo said.
“Shut up, Duringo,” Esrieve said, gently shoving her older brother in the back. “I love the way Narumi talks.” She beamed with childish delight. “Say something else, Narumi.”
“There’s a piece of lint in your hair,” Narumi said. She reached over and plucked a piece of lint from Esrieve’s red bangs.
“Oh,” Esrieve said. “Gee, I wonder how long that was there.”
“Esrieve should have been born as a blond,” Ringo said. “That would give her an excuse for being so slow!”
“And what is that supposed to mean?” Haverdy asked as she scowled at Ringo.
“Haverdy, you’re an exception to the rule,” Ringo said, patting Haverdy’s back. “You too, Fortune.”
“Haverdy is an exception?” Tony said. The six of them laughed as they walked away from the school.
Fortune looked around at his companions. There was his girlfriend, Esrieve Fullerton, a hyperactive redhead who was in the tenth grade with Haverdy. Ringo, Esrieve’s brother, was in one of his classes and had been his best friend since elementary school. Narumi Hime, a raven-haired half-Japanese girl, was the most intellectual person he knew. And then, there was Tony Morales, the group’s comic relief. School, family, friends, and normalcy: this was all he needed.
Fortune stopped dead in his tracks; his friends halted as well.
“You are Fortune Oyama, aren’t you?”
The six students turned and found themselves looking down at a little old man in a tattered black suit and tie. His gaze was focused on Fortune. Fortune cocked an eyebrow. “How did you know my name?” he asked as he locked eyes with the tiny stranger.
“There is much I know about you,” the old man said. An unnatural breeze blew and lifted a few strands of his neatly combed silver hair. He squinted his periwinkle eyes. “It’s almost time.”
“Time?” Fortune said. “Time for what?”
“For your wing to grow,” the old man replied. “But excuse me. Grow was a poor choice of words. It’s been growing all this time. It’s ready to sprout , now.”
“My wing?” Fortune asked, a worried look forming upon his face.
“Let’s go, Fortune,” Haverdy said, as she gently tugged on her brother’s arm.
“Yeah, he’s just some nut,” Tony added. “Let’s go.”
“But he knows Fortune’s name,” Narumi whispered.
“You’ve been having strange dreams, haven’t you?” the old man continued. “Visions of a world you couldn’t save?”
Both Haverdy and Fortune gasped softly.
“It’s all part of the Prophecy of the Wings,” the old man said. “On the midnight of his eighteenth birthday, the chosen one’s Left Wing shall appear, and he will begin his quest to retrieve the Right Wing. He who possesses the Wings shall control the fate of the world.”
Fortune could feel a lump in his throat. How did this old man know who he was? How did he know about his dreams? And what was all of this nonsense about a prophecy and wings?
“I have to go,” Fortune said, suddenly. “Please, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Just leave me alone, please.” He turned and walked away. His friends stared at the old man for a moment, then followed Fortune to a nearby park. There, he found a bench, and sat down with his head resting in his hands.
Haverdy sat down beside him, and leaned forward a little to see his face. “Are you okay, Fortune?” she asked.
“What was up with that old guy?” Ringo asked.
“And what was he talking about?” Esrieve asked.
Fortune sighed. “I had the dream again,” he said as he picked his head up. “The one about the end of the world.”
“And that elderly man knew about it,” Narumi said. “Fortune, this could mean something.”
“Aw, forget about it,” Tony said. “I’m sure if you call the local mental institution, one of their older nut cases is probably missing.”
Esrieve giggled and leaned over the bench. She wrapped her arms and Fortune and said, “Let’s just forget all about it, okay? Come on! I could go for a Dr. Pepper right about now.”
Fortune couldn’t help but to laugh. Esrieve’s child-like sweetness always seemed to turn any bad situation into a good one. He kissed her cheek and stood up. “You’re probably right,” he said. “It’s nothing. Let’s go.”
They walked out of the park and across the street to a convenience store. Fortune tried not to think about the old man and his words, but they managed to work their way back into his mind. The Prophecy of the Wings. His dream about the end of the world. Even the old man had said it: a world you couldn’t save. How could he have known?
There was a sudden itch in the left side of his back, just below his shoulder blade. As he reached behind himself to scratch it, Fortune recalled something else the old man had said:
The chosen one’s Left Wing shall appear…
Fortune stopped scratching as he approached the cooler. He opened the door and pulled out a can of Pepsi. He had never discussed his dream with anyone besides Haverdy and his friends. How did the old man know? How could a complete stranger have known so much about him? He had to wonder about the prophecy: was it a dream or was it reality?
Valentine Chapter One: “I’d Rather Ride Solo” or “Road Trip
It was early; around six in the morning. It was a good time to hit the road. Most people were still asleep, so the roads would be clear. The apartment was dark except for the light hanging above the dining room table. Veronica Entienne stood next to the table in her bath robe, with a mug of coffee in her hand. She watched her cousin Val stuff a few last-minute items into her black duffle bag. She was kneeling on the floor, forcing the zipper to close. When she accomplished her mission, she stood up, and slung the bag across her shoulder. “Okay,” Val said. “I’m ready.”
“Sure you don’t want any coffee?” Veronica asked. “It might help, Val.”
Val shook her head. “You know I don’t drink that stuff,” she said. “Besides, my adrenaline will keep me awake.” She sighed, and looked around the apartment.
Veronica set her mug down on the table. “You’re looking at this place as if you’re never going to see it again,” she said.
“I may not,” Val said.
Veronica shook her head. “Don’t talk like that,” she said. “You’ll come back. I know you will.”
Val smiled at her cousin. “Okay,” she said. “If you say so. You remember what to do, right? You’re okay with this?”
“Yes, yes, Val,” Veronica said. “All I have to do is take care of the rent and the bills, keep the place clean, blah blah blah. I can handle it.”
Val nodded her head. “Okay,” she said.
“Just make sure you do your part and call me every step of the way,” Veronica said.
“I will,” Val said. She placed her hand on the door knob, and slowly turned it. She opened the door, then paused and looked back at her cousin. “Gotta go, now,” she said. “Wish me luck.”
Veronica smiled sadly. “Good luck, Val,” she said. “Be careful, okay?”
Val smiled, and let herself out of the apartment. She walked down the hall, down two flights of stairs, and out of the building. It was time for her to begin her solitary road trip. Her method of transportation: her 1967 Black Ford Mustang. Her route: the infamous route 66. Her purpose: to locate Vincent Entienne, her father. Val walked across the parking lot of the apartment complex, and walked around her car, to the trunk. She opened it, and dropped her duffle bag inside. She looked around the parking lot for any sign that she wasn’t alone. When she was certain no one else was around, she unzipped a side pocket of the bag, where she had tucked a pair of .38 mm black handguns, and extra ammunition. She sighed heavily, then zipped the bag closed and slammed the trunk shut.
Val climbed into her car and started it, and backed out of her assigned parking space at Lindsey Towers Apartments. It was going to be a long drive from Chicago to Los Angeles, but she was determined to go.
Vincent Entienne worked for a man everyone knew as Rafferty. Vincent never explained exactly what he did for Rafferty, but Val knew it wasn’t anything legal or legitimate. Vincent always came home with money, but never a paycheck. Whenever Val asked what he did for Rafferty, he simply said, “I work, I get paid, and I take care of you and Veronica.” But lately, he seemed to be tired of his “work”, and he even talked about getting of the business. In order to quit, he would need a good reason, and he would need to speak to Rafferty in person.
Vincent came home one night in a panic, telling his daughter and his niece he needed to go away for a few days. Something came up, and he had finally decided to quit working for Rafferty. He had to go to California to talk to him. He couldn’t give the girls any details—-he just had to go see Rafferty.
“You have to tell us something, Dad,” Val said as she watched her father pack a dark green back pack.
“I can’t talk about it, Vally Girl,” Vincent said. “Let’s just say, Rafferty asked me for something I can’t give him. I’ll be back in a few days…..I promise.”
But a few days turned into a few weeks. Vincent didn’t call, and he didn’t answer his cell phone. When he didn’t return, Val decided to go to California herself. She would either find her father alive and bring him home, or avenge his death.
Val followed the signs for Springfield and entered route 66. “Hold on Daddy,” she whispered to herself. “I’m coming.”
Every few minutes, Val looked up at her rear view mirror, and saw a dark blue pick-up truck, one car length behind her. She first noticed it when she entered Springfield. Sometimes it would get lost behind another car on the highway, but it would always make its way back to her. It looked like the truck that belonged to her father’s partner , Jacob. Val had called Jacob after her father disappeared, hoping to get some information. Jacob didn’t answer any of her calls. Now, she was certain he was following her.
There was a sign indicating a train station was at the next exit. Val quickly changed lanes and took the exit. This caught the truck by surprise, and the driver missed the exit. Val laughed to herself as she rode around the curve. She drove to a traffic light and made a right turn, and went around another curve which took her directly into the parking lot of the train station. There, she found an empty space at the far end of the lot, parked her car, and turned it off. She gave a sigh of relief, and checked her appearance in her rear view mirror. She brushed away a few loose strands of her carnation pink-dyed hair that had fallen across her face, and got out of her car. She shook her head and stretched. Her journey had barely begun, and she was already being followed. Looking ahead at the station, she figured there had to be restrooms and vending machines inside. She could use the restroom, grab some chips and a soda and hit the road again. She didn’t want to stop again for another four hours, and she couldn’t afford to let anything slow her down.
Val entered the station and immediately found the ladies room. After using it, she walked around the lobby of the station, to a vending machine, where a dollar bought her a can of Pepsi. She popped it open and drank half of it down, and smiled. “Caffeine,” she whispered.
“I said leave me alone!”
Val searched the station’s lobby for the source of the argument, and found a young girl sitting in a chair about fifty feet away. Two teen-aged boys were standing around her. The girl was looking back and forth between them.
“Come on!” one of the boys said. “We’ll give you a ride.”
“I have a train ticket,” the girl said. “I don’t need a ride, so just go away!”
“You’ll have more fun if you ride with us,” the first boy said.
Val quickly finished her Pepsi and threw the can away in the closest garbage can she could find. She began to walk towards the two boys. “Hey!” she said. A few of the other people in the station looked up. The two boys looked at Val in surprise. The girl looked at her with gratitude.
“Didn’t she ask you to leave her alone?” Val asked. She stopped a few feet away from the boys.
“So?” the second boy said. “What’s it to you?”
“This isn’t any of your business,” the first boy said.
“Yeah, well, I’m making it my business,” Val said, calmly. “So, I suggest you guys leave that girl alone…..now.”
The first boy laughed. “Oh yeah?” he said. “Or else what? What are you gonna do?” He narrowed his beady brown eyes at Val. He took two steps toward Val, who grabbed his right arm and twisted it behind his back, and brought him down to his knees. The other boy backed away.
Val leaned in and whispered into the boy’s ear. “If you don’t leave her alone, I’m going to twist your arm off,” she said. She released his arm, and watched him stand up. He looked over at his friend, then the two of them turned and quickly walked away.
Val looked at the girl sitting on the bench. A smile spread across the girl’s face. She stood up from the bench and extended her hand to Val. “I’m Melinda!” she declared. “Melinda St. James. That was so cool!”
“Val,” Val said. “Val Entienne.”
“I can’t believe you saved me,” Melinda said.
“No problem kid,” Val said. “Are you here by yourself?”
“Well, yes,” Melinda replied. “I’m on my way to my grandparents’ house in Tulsa.”
Val shook Melinda’s hand. “Oh, okay,” she said. “Good luck, Melinda St. James. See you around.” She turned, and started to walk away.
Melinda gasped and turned to the bench. She grabbed the blue duffle bag she had shoved underneath her seat, and ran after Val. “Wait a minute!” she said. “You’re my hero! I have to repay you.”
“No you don’t,” Val said. “Its okay–really.”
“Where are you going?” Melinda asked.
“California,” Val replied, dryly.
“Can I go with you?” Melinda asked.
Val stopped in her tracks and turned to face Melinda. “Aren’t you going to Tulsa?” she asked.
Melinda looked down at her feet for a moment. “Well, yeah,” she said, quietly. “But I don’t have to.”
Val sighed. “Look kid,” she began, “I’m traveling alone, and I have a schedule to keep.” She looked over at a corner of the station, and saw the two teen boys. Now there were three other boys with them. “Crap,” Val muttered. “They’re still here, and they’re multiplying.”
Melinda gave her a curious look, then turned and saw the boys. “Oh,” she whispered. “They’re back….”
Val stared at the boys and their friends. I can’t leave her alone here, she thought. Those boys are gonna mess with her again. And, Tulsa is on my way….
“Okay, kid,” Val said. “You can come with me. I’ll give you a ride to Tulsa. But that’s it.”
Melinda beamed with delight. “Great!” she exclaimed. “I won’t be any trouble—I promise.”
Val led Melinda out of the station and across the parking lot, to her car. “Give me your bag,” she said. “I’ll put it in the trunk.”
“This is your car?” Melinda asked. “Wow! It’s sooooo cool!”
“How old are you, kid?” Val asked.
“Fifteen,” Melinda replied, proudly. “Well, actually I’m fourteen, but I feel like I’m fifteen.”
“Oh Lord,” Val muttered. “This is going to be a long ride.” She unlocked the passenger side door, and Melinda climbed inside. As she walked around to her door, Val noticed the boys coming out of the station. They walked half-way across the parking lot and stopped. Val got into her car and started the engine. She rolled a few feet forward, then stopped, and revved her engine. The roar of the Mustang’s engine must have been intimidating, because two of the boys backed away. Val rolled forward again, then laughed as all five of the boys turned and ran back into the station. Val pulled out of the parking lot and smiled. “Idiots.”
Our Lady of Righteous Rage: Extended and Uncensored
Chapter One: Amy
When I was twelve years old, I fell in love with rock n roll. Don’t get me wrong—I like other types of music: jazz, R and B, pop, etc. But rock became my first true love. It was the winter of 1994, I had just turned twelve, and I was in the seventh grade. Now, before you try and do the math on that, let me clarify something: my mother put me in school one year early. So, I was always one year younger than the other kids in my class. This made me realize I would graduate from high school at seventeen. I wasn’t a genius or anything, but apparently I was pretty damn smart. But I digress
I had been surrounded by music since before I was born. Mom used to place a set of headphones on her belly while she was carrying me, so I was nurtured by the food she ate, and the sounds of Motown, Beethoven, and on occasion, Wham and Culture Club. After I was born, she played music around the house, and both of my older brothers played guitar. So the Edwards house was always filled with music. But it wasn’t until I turned twelve that I began to gravitate mostly towards rock.
I was friends with a boy named David Sarconi, who lived in my neighborhood in Bayside, Queens. He was four years older than me, but we had been friends for years. He was the one who introduced me to rock. We’d hang out at his house, or at his cousin Nick’s house in Brooklyn, and listen to The Rolling Stones or Aerosmith, or The Ramones or Radiohead. Both David and Nick could play the guitar, too. He and Nick would play, and I would be their audience. Sometimes Nick’s sister Nisa would join us (Nisa and I were the same age). If we started listening to Metallica or ACDC, she’d leave, complaining that “metal was too loud.” So, for awhile it was mostly the three of us.
Then Nick’s friend Aidan Sirci started hanging out with us. We’d go to the city and hit up a couple of music stores (back when Warehouse Music was still around). We’d buy anything a group of sixteen year olds (and one twelve year old) could afford. Some places had four-dollar CD’s and two-dollar vinyl records. You had to really search hard and dig for the good stuff. One day Nick found an Osmond Brothers record in a shop not far from Union Square. He held it up for the rest of us to see and yelled, “What do you think? Is it worth my two dollars?”
“Put that shit down, man,” Aidan replied. I giggled, and David just shook his head.
The Winter of 1994 was special, because that’s when I heard the band that would ultimately become my favorite band of all time. My love affair with them began with my birthday present from David. He came to the little birthday party my family had put together for me. Mom made a Betty Crocker box cake: yellow with chocolate icing. My sister Lana gave me an art set, because she knew I loved to draw. My oldest brother David Richard (we called him DR) gave me a journal, because he knew I loved to write. My other brother Richard gave me a gift card to Blockbuster Video, because he just didn’t know any better. But David’s gift was awesome. It was small, and wrapped in green and yellow paper. He stood in silent excitement as I opened it. It was a Green Day CD, titled Dookie.
“What do you think?” David asked. The anticipation of my reaction was literally killing him.
“Cool,” I said. “I’ve been hearing a lot about Green Day lately.”
“You have to hear it,” David insisted.
We moved the party from the kitchen to the living room, where the family radio/CD player sat upon a wooden table. We ate cake and ice cream and listened to Green Day’s Dookie. I loved it right away. Lana and DR were into it. Richard, not so much (he was lame, anyway). My mother just smiled; she was very liberal and open-minded for a single mother.
From that day forward, I not only loved rock, I had a special interest in punk. David and Green Day had pulled me down the rabbit hole and into a whole new world, and there was no turning back.
Chapter 1: Let’s Call This An Introduction
“Doug, are you still there? Doug, please answer me…”
Silence. No answer from Doug. Personally, I was waiting for the clichéd heavy breathing, followed by the sudden emotional breakdown: intense sobbing, sniffling, etc. And Doug did not disappoint. A few seconds after the silence, he came back onto the line, crying and doing his best to snort what I can only imagine must be a little river of mucus running from his nose. “I’m just so tired of it all, man,” he said. “I just don’t know what to do.”
“It’s okay Doug,” the radio therapist said. “We all have moments where we don’t know what to do. It’s perfectly normal…”
It was late, and their conversation was getting boring. Who am I kidding? It wasn’t getting boring—it had been boring from the very beginning. I only tuned in because every now and then, there was a caller with a real problem. I’m talking, lost-their-whole-family-in-a-fire type of shit. People like that need help. I only listen, though. I never call in. My problems weren’t big enough for a talk radio audience. Dr. Kenny Lazaro was on the air between one and three in the morning. He offers comfort and advice for the suicidal and broken-hearted. He had been on the line with a caller named Doug for about twenty minutes. Doug didn’t have any family or friends who cared about him. He recently lost his job (a barista at Starbucks) and his girlfriend was trying to break up with him. He claimed he wanted to kill himself, which is bullshit, because if he really wanted to die, he’d be dead. So, I guess what Doug really needed was cuddling. Someone to hold his hand and massage his feelings, and tell him everything was going to be okay. Someone to take his world filled with darkness, and fill it with sunshine and unicorns and rainbows. What Doug really needs, is for someone to kick him in his balls (if he even has any) and tell him to man up. Stop being such a pussy, and realize that bad shit happens to everyone. It’s called life.
I turned my radio off, and rolled over in my bed. I figured it was time for me to get some sleep. After all, we teenagers need plenty of sleep in order to function in school. I’d hate to fall asleep during math class…that would be a terrible shame.
Oh, I should start over. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression of me. I don’t want you to think I’m this depressed, brooding teen-aged girl, who’s angry at life and the entire world. I’m actually one of the nicest people I know. So, let’s go through the basics, shall we? Standard job application stuff? Name: Erin Nicole Michaels. Age: seventeen. Gender: female. Ethnicity: Catgirl; Greek-Irish. Occupation: high school student; twelfth grade. Interests: poetry, reading, writing, movies…nerd stuff. But I feel like I should go back a bit further. I want you to really get to know me. So, let’s go back, as far back as I can remember. No, I won’t tell you about the day I entered the world. Who the hell remembers that, anyway? Maybe some of you do. I sure as hell do not. So, we’ll skip a few years down the road, to my elementary school years…
Her Name is Lola Vencent, Chapter One: The Girl
Kevin Carter sat on the stool at the bar, drumming his index finger on the counter. There didn’t seem to be enough cushion left on the seat to support his girth. He wiggled and twisted about, in an attempt to get more comfortable. He sighed, and looked at his wrist watch. Twenty minutes. This boy was twenty minutes late.
Behind him, several feet away, the entrance to the bar opened, and a young man dressed in a dark blue denim jacket and blue jeans stepped inside. He looked around the bar, and smiled when he saw Kevin sitting awkwardly on one of the stools. He walked up to the counter and chose the stool to Kevin’s right. “Hey, man,” he said. “Sorry I’m late.”
“You’re twenty minutes late,” Kevin said. He reached up and loosened the knot in his tie. “It’s too damn hot for this.”
The young man cocked an eyebrow. “Hot?” he said. “It’s Fall! You’re just too fat.”
Kevin rolled his eyes at the insult. “Whatever. Did you find somebody or what?”
“Of course I did,” the young man said. “Why else would I be here?”
Kevin gave a long, deep sigh. “Look, Jacob, I don’t have time for this. I need this thing taken care of. Who did you get?”
Jacob smirked at him. “The best person I know,” he said. “Besides me, of course. I still don’t understand why you don’t want me to do it myself.”
“Cunningham knows you,” Kevin said. “He’ll see you coming from a mile away. It has to be someone he doesn’t know; someone new. Who did you get?”
“Like I said, the best,” Jacob said.
“Does your best have a name?” Kevin asked.
Jacob smiled at him. “Her name is Lola Vencent.”
A young Black woman sat on a marble bench outside of an apartment building in the Bronx, New York, watching people as they went in and out of the building’s entrance. She paid close attention to the men; especially the middle-aged looking ones. Her eyes followed one guy in particular: salt and pepper hair, black pants and a white button-down shirt, with a black jacket, carrying what appeared to be a bag of groceries. She stood up from the bench when he opened the door to the building. She moved quickly, and got behind him, and entered right after him. He got onto the elevator, and so did she. They stood in opposite corners, avoiding eye contact at first. Finally, he stole a glance, and said hello. She smiled at him, and nodded.
“Beautiful day outside,” the guy said. “Don’t you think?”
“Yes, it is,” she said. He smiled at her surprisingly low voice. When she looked away, he studied her, taking in all of her features. Tight blue jeans and a low-cut T-shirt. Short denim jacket. Black hair, pulled back into a ponytail. She looked like a college student.
“Are you in school?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said. “NYU.”
The elevator stopped on the tenth floor, and the doors opened. The two of them stepped off, and began to walk down the hallway. “That’s a good school,” he said. He walked to the end of the hall, to his apartment door. He dug into his pocket, and pulled out a set of keys. As he unlocked the door, he glanced at her over his shoulder. “Are you here to see someone?” he asked.
She waited until he opened the door, and entered the apartment. “Yes, I am,” she said. “I’m here for you, Cunningham.”
He set the bag down on the floor, and looked back at her in surprise. “What?” he said, almost smiling at her. “Did someone send you here?”
She entered the apartment, and closed the door. “Kevin sent me, “she said, flatly. “He said, he’s done playing with you.” She reached behind her back, and retrieved a handgun from her waistband. “He also said to tell you, good bye.” She raised the gun, and pointed it at him.
“This is a joke, right?” he said, taking a step backwards. He looked at the gun, and noticed the silencer on the end of the muzzle. “Are you serious?”
She didn’t answer him. Instead, she fired a single shot, and the bullet struck his chest. He fell backward, and hit the hardwood floor. She approached him and stood over him, watching him draw his last breaths. After he expired, she tucked the gun away, and exited the apartment. She walked quickly to the elevator, and rode it down it the first floor, then walked out of the building. Once she was outside, and a few blocks away from the building, she found a pay phone, dropped two quarters into the slot, and dialed a number. Seconds later, a male voice answered her call.
“Jacob. It’s Lola,” she said.
“Lola?” Jacob said. “Is it done?”
“It’s done,” Lola said.
“Nice,” Jacob said. “I’ll tell Kevin. Did anyone see you?”
“No,” Lola said. “And the police won’t have much to go on, since someone damaged the security cameras on the main and tenth floors two nights ago.”
“Did they really?” Jacob said. “Huh. That’s too bad. Funny how those things happen, eh?”
Lola smiled to herself. “Funny indeed.”
Allan and Mac: Valentine Apart, Book One
Chapter One: What’s in the Trunk?
The dark blue Dodge Challenger pulled over and parked in front of an abandoned lot, covered with overgrown shrubs and bushes. The driver changed gears and put the car in “park”, shut the car off and pulled the key out of the ignition. She sighed. It was hot, and her air conditioner had stopped working weeks ago. She knew she needed to get it fixed; she’d been busy lately. It was quiet. Without the sound of the engine to muffle it, she could hear the thumping from the trunk a little louder now. She sighed, and used her index finger to trace the circular shape of her steering wheel. She began to hum a little tune she had just made up. She glanced over her shoulder, towards the trunk. She sucked her teeth, unbuckled her seat belt, and climbed out of the car. She slowly walked around the car, to the trunk. She slid the key into the lock on the trunk, and lifted the open. She stood with one hand on the lid of the trunk, and the other in the back pocket of her blue jeans. “I’m pretty sure we had an agreement,” she said, looking down at the contents of the trunk.
Inside the trunk, was a middle-aged man in a navy blue suit and tie. His hands and feet were bound with duck tape. He looked up at her through a pair of narrow gray eyes.
“We agreed,” she continued, “You would be quiet. I don’t think that’s asking very much, do you? So, are you going to make any more noise, or are you going to force me to make a mess back here?”
The man nodded quickly. His mouth had a single strip of duck tape across it.
She smiled, briefly. “Good boy,” she said. Then she slammed the trunk shut, and got back inside her car. Before driving away, she tilted her head to one side and cracked her neck. Then, she cleared her throat, and drove away.
A man in a button-down plaid shirt and jeans stepped outside of a deli, and stood on the sidewalk. He watched a dark blue Dodge Challenger pull up in front of him. He leaned down and smiled at the driver. “Hey, Mac,” he said.
The woman in the driver’s seat leaned across the passenger seat just enough for him to see her. “Hey, Allan,” she said. “Sorry I’m late.”
“No worries,” Allan said. He stepped up and opened the door, and climbed into the passenger’s seat, just as Mac sat up straight. “Busy day?”
“Sort of,” Mac said. “I had this thing I had to take care of.”
There was a soft thump from within the trunk.
Both Allan and Mac turned in their seats and looked back at the trunk.
“This freaking guy,” Mac whispered.
Allan chuckled and shook his head. “There’s a paint store down the street,” he said. “It’s been closed for a couple of months now. They have a parking lot in the back. Drive there and park behind the store.”
Mac nodded, and drove down the street. She had no trouble finding the paint store, located next to a struggling Chinese restaurant. There was a driveway beside the store, and she pulled up to it, and drove into the parking lot. The only thing there was a dumpster. She parked her car and shut the engine off. Then she and Allan climber out of the car, and walked around to the rear. Allan opened the trunk. He reached in, and ripped the tape off of the man’s mouth. “Hey there,” he said. “How’s it going?”
“You better let me go, you asshole!” the man in the suit shouted.
Allan and Mac turned to one another in surprise, then Allan slammed the trunk shut, and sighed. “Give him a minute,” he said. “He’s just worked up. He needs a minute.” Mac nodded her head. Allan looked up towards the sky, and watched the clouds as the slowly passed by. Then he looked down at the trunk, and opened it again. “You just met me,” he said. “So I don’t know why the hell you’re mad at me. So, let’s start over, yes? What did you do?”
“What are you talking about?” the man asked. “I didn’t do anything!”
“Well, you must have done something,” Allan said, running his fingers through his dark blond hair. “My sister isn’t in the habit of picking up random people and stuffing them into the trunk of her car for no apparent reason.”
Mac giggled to herself. “That would be kind of funny, though,” she said.
Allan smiled at her, then returned to the man in the trunk. “So, what did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything!” the man yelled. “And you’d better—-”
Allan slammed the trunk shut again. He and Mac stood in silence for a few seconds. They could hear the man cursing and yelling inside the trunk. Mac folded her arms and tapped her foot. Allan studied the palm of his hand. “We’ll just give him another minute,” Allan said, calmly. “I’m hungry. Aren’t you hungry?”
Mac cocked an eyebrow. “Actually, yes, I am,” she said. “Now that you mention it. I could eat. I could go for a taco.”
“That is so weird!” Allan said. “I was just thinking the same thing. I haven’t had a taco in about a month now.” He opened the trunk again. “What’s your name, buddy?”
“Kirk,” the man said.
“Well, Kirk,” Allan began, “Let’s try this again. What did you do?”
Kirk’s face was turning red. “Look, pal, you’ve got five seconds to—”
Allan slammed the trunk shut, and sighed heavily. He turned to Mac. “So, do you want Qdoba or Chipotle?”
“I could go for Taco Bell,” Mac said, brushing away a lock of dark blond hair that had fallen across her face. “I know you’re trying to go for something authentic, but I’m partial to my Americanized tacos.”
Allan nodded. “I get it,” he said. He opened the trunk again, this time, more swiftly than before. “Look Kirk, I can do this all day. I don’t want to, because I’m hungry and I want tacos. So, just tell me what you did.”
“He embezzled funds from his financial firm,” Mac said with a weary sigh. “Sorry, but I really want tacos now, and Kirk’s wasting our time.”
There were beads of sweat on Kirk’s forehead. “How did you find out about that?” he asked nervously.
“Well, I didn’t find out about it,” Mac said. “The person who discovered what you had done contacted me and requested my services. It was Doug, your partner slash brother-in-law. He’s very upset with you.”
“Shame on you Kirk,” Allan said.
“I was only borrowing the money,” Kirk said, quickly. “I was going to give it back.”
“Bullshit,” Allan said.
Mac sighed and shook her head. “Look, Doug wants his money back,” she said. “And if he can’t get it back, well, you’re already in the trunk, so you can probably see where this is going. That means we solve this problem one of two ways. One, is you return the funds you stole—-all of it—-and move out of the state. The other, is I pop you right here. Now, I’m all for quick and simple solutions. But, if I shoot you, I’ll have to get my trunk cleaned for the umpteenth time this year. I really don’t want to do that, Kirk.”
“Although your car could use a good cleaning,” Allan said, quietly. Mac nudged him with her elbow.
“You…you wouldn’t kill me,” Kirk said, trying his best to sound confident.
“She would,” Allan said.
“I will,” Mac said. “So, what’s it gonna be, Kirk? Are you going to return the money and move, or am I going to have to mess my trunk up?”
Kirk’s eyes rolled back and forth between Allan and Mac.
Allan looked over at his sister. “Have you tried that new quesarito thing?” he asked. “I heard it’s pretty good.”
“Oh yeah?” Mac said. “I might try that.” She looked down at Kirk. “Let’s go Kirk!”
“Okay!” Kirk shouted. “I have the money in an account. I’ll give it back.”
“And move out of New York,” Mac said.
“What?” Kirk said.
“And move out of the state,” Mac repeated.
Kirk blinked at her. “But, I can’t—-”
“There’s a place out on Long Island where we could leave him,” Allan said. “Plus there’s a really nice car wash nearby. They’re great at getting out stains.”
“Okay!” Kirk said. “I’ll move! I’ll move!”
Both Allan and Mac smiled. “Good boy,” Mac said. Allan closed the trunk, and the two of them got back into the car.
“That went well,” Mac said, as she started the car.
“Are we going to drive him to Taco Bell with us?” Allan asked.
Mac shrugged her shoulders. “I guess.”
Allan leaned forward in his seat. “Mackenzie?”
Mac groaned. “Fine,” she said. “We’ll take him to the bank first. But then I want tacos.”
“Okay,” Allan said.
“And a Mexican pizza.”
“And a Mountain Dew Baja Blast.”
“And maybe some of those mini Cinnabon balls they have now. Have you had those yet? Those things are awesome.”
“Please drive, Mac.”
“Okay. Sorry. I get excited about food.”
Mac drove to the rear parking lot of a grocery store, where she and Allan got out of the car and untied Kirk, and allowed him to ride in the front passenger’s seat. Allan sat behind him, and reminded him not to do anything stupid. Their next stop was a local branch of Chase Bank. They parked a block away from the bank, and before getting out of the car, Mac gave Kirk a few instructions.
“I’m going inside with you, Kirk,” she said. “All you’re going to do, is withdraw the money you have stolen. I know the amount, so please don’t try anything that will force me to shoot you later on. You’ll withdraw the money, and put it inside a black bag. It’s under your seat.”
Kirk nodded and reached under his seat, and retrieved a small black duffle bag. He gripped it tightly as Mac continued.
“Relax,” Mac said. “You look too goddamn nervous. This isn’t a robbery, after all. You’re giving back the money you stole. Then, we’ll take you home, and you’ll move out of New York. If I see you around the Big Apple, I will put a bullet in your ass. Understood?”
Kirk nodded his head quickly. “Yeah, sure, okay,” he said.
Mac smiled. “Good boy,” she said. “Let’s go.”
The two of them got out of the car and entered the bank, while Allan waited outside. Kirk tried to smile as he approached the next available teller and informed her, he needed to make a large cash withdrawal. The bank’s manager was called over to handle the transaction. Twenty minutes later, Mac escorted Kirk out of the bank and back to her car. She even opened the door for him. Once he was inside, she climbed into the driver’s seat, started the car and pulled off.
“Two hundred thousand,” Mac said. “You stole two hundred thousand from a company your brother-in-law founded. He was nice enough to give your sorry ass a job, too. You really do suck, Kirk.”
Kirk rolled his eyes and looked away.
“What was the money for?” Allan asked. “Gambling debt? Prostitutes? Smack?”
Mac cocked an eyebrow. “Smack?”
“Drugs,” Allan clarified.
“It’s personal,” Kirk said.
“Well, whatever the reason, you had no business stealing that money,” Mac said.
Kirk glared at her. “Who the hell are you to lecture me?” he snapped. “You’re a hit man!”
“Woman,” Mac corrected. “I’m a hit woman. And who am I? I’m the one with the loaded gun. I’m the one who’s going to shoot you if you don’t honor our agreement. So, shove it!”
Mac pulled up in front of a house in Manhasset, where she snatched the black bag from Kirk, and gestured towards the house. “It’s been a pleasure,” she said. “Get out of my car, and get out of New York.” Kirk muttered something inaudible under his breath as he opened the door and climbed out of the car. As soon as he closed the door, the Challenger sped away. Kirk stood on the sidewalk for a moment, looking up at the front door to his two-story house. The lights were on; his wife was home. He wondered if she knew….
Allan sat across from his sister inside Taco Bell, watching her tilt her head to one side in order to eat one of three tacos. And this was after the Mexican Pizza.
“I had fun with you today,” Mac said, chewing up and swallowing a mouth full of taco. “We should do jobs together more often.”
“Yeah, we should,” Allan said, taking a bite of one of his own tacos. “Say, how did you grab Kirk in the first place?”
Mac picked up a napkin and wiped the side of her mouth. “I was pretending to dig through my trunk,” she said. “I was bending over and he was staring at my butt. Then I looked up at him and smiled, and waved him over. As soon as he was close enough, I used the butt of my gun to knock him out. He fell into my trunk, and later, I taped him up.”
“Wow,” Allan said. “There were a lot of butts in your story.”
Mac giggled. “Yeah, yeah there were.” She began to eat another taco.
“You know,” Allan began, “if you keep eating like that, you’re gonna get fat. And you of all people do not want to get fat.”
Mac paused, taco in hand. “Why’s that?”
Allan smirked at her. “Because of the obvious nickname,” he said. “You’ll be bigger. Big Mac.”
Mac narrowed her eyes at him.
The Witch of Fulton Lane
She had never been on an airplane before. She had only seen them in the picture books and magazines her mother provided for her, in order to fuel her imagination. In her books, the planes looked big and shiny, and the people on them looked so excited. They were flying to new lands; new destinations. Why shouldn’t they be excited? Planes went anywhere and everywhere. A few days ago, she boarded a plane for the first time ever, to visit the south. Today, her plane was flying both her and her mother home to New York, from an art festival in South Carolina.
The festival had lasted five days, and took place in a public park. Rue Maycriss and her seven-year-old daughter Dylan had flown in and arrived in time for the beginning of the second day. Rue was an artist, among many other things, and was selling some of her abstract paintings at the festival. Her husband, Marcus, had declined to join them on their trip. Instead, he had taken them to the airport, and agreed to pick them up upon their return.
At the terminal, Rue and Dylan sat side by side, watching the other passengers as they walked by. Rue looked over at her daughter and smiled. “Can you believe we sold all of our paintings?” she asked.
Dylan’s face lit up. “Everybody wanted one!” she exclaimed. “Your paintings are really good, Mommy.”
“Our paintings,” Rue corrected. “You helped me paint most of them. We should take the money we made, and open a savings account for you.”
“Can we really?” Dylan asked.
Rue nodded. “I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “Of course, we’ll have to ask Daddy, first.”
Dylan frowned. “Daddy won’t like it.”
Rue placed her arm around her daughter. “We’ll just see about that,” she said, with a wink.
Their flight was announced, and they stood up from their seats. The first class passengers boarded first, followed by unaccompanied minors. The coach passengers were next. As Rue led her daughter onto the plane and to their seats, she felt a sudden sharp pain in the pit of her stomach. Dylan noticed her discomfort, and placed her little hand over her mother’s. “Are you okay, Mommy?”
Rue nodded quickly. “Mommy’s fine,” she said. “I think I had too much ice cream yesterday.”
“That’s okay,” Dylan said. “When we get home, you can take the pink stuff.”
Rue smiled. When we get home, she thought.
As the plane drove out to the runway, Dylan looked out her window, and watched the other planes take off. A flight attendant passed through the aisle, checking to see if everyone was buckled in. As the plane made its way down the runway, gaining speed with every second, the sharp pain in Rue’s stomach returned. Damn it, she thought. Not here! Not like this!
Dylan had turned away from her window and was staring at her mother. “Mommy?”
Rue tried to smile, but Dylan was an intelligent child, and she couldn’t hide anything from her. “Dylan, baby, do you remember what Mommy taught you? Do you remember how to hold things together?”
Dylan shook her head vigorously. “Yes, I remember. Why?”
“You’re gonna have to do that, very soon,” Rue said. “There’s something wrong with—”
The airplane suddenly shook violently. The lights flickered on and off. Passengers began to look all around, and the flight attendants stepped into the front of the aisle, trying to reassure everyone, it was only turbulence. Then the plane shook again. The cabin of the 747 suddenly went black, and a few people screamed. The captain was speaking over the intercom, stating it was just a little turbulence. What he hadn’t mentioned, was the 747 was having engine trouble.
“We’ve only been in the air for less than five minutes!” a man near the rear of the cabin shouted.
Rue shut her eyes, and took a deep breath. She held the silver pentacle, which hung around her neck on a black cord. Maybe, I can do it, she thought. Maybe I can fix it, and Dylan won’t have to…
The lights inside the cabin turned on, and the plane stopped shaking. The passengers began to settle. Rue opened her eyes, and looked around, and found Dylan smiling at her. “You made it better, didn’t you, Mommy?” she asked.
Rue gave a sigh of relief. “Yes, I think I did,” she said. “Let’s just hope it holds.”
Forty minutes into the flight, the plane began to shake again. This time was worse than before. This time, oxygen masks dropped down from their compartments in the ceiling. People began to scream. The flight attendants were powerless to calm anyone down. Dylan looked out her window, and noticed thick black smoke, coming from one of the engines. Without turning her gaze away from the window, she reached out and tugged on her mother’s sleeve. “Mommy,” she whispered.
“I see it, too,” Rue said. “Dylan, it’s time. I need you to help me. I need you to help me hold this plane together.”
Dylan trembled as she nodded her head. She and her mother joined hands, and closed their eyes. Rue grasped her pentacle, as both of the plane’s engine shut off. The 747 began to descend, rapidly.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” a flight attendant shouted. “Please put your oxygen masks on, and fasten your seatbelts!”
“Just concentrate,” Rue said. “Don’t listen to the other people, or the noises inside the plane. Just focus on holding the plane together. Picture the outside of the plane, and hold it, really tight, with your mind.”
Dylan nodded her head and concentrated as hard as her seven-year-old mind could.
The other passengers were screaming and yelling; some were saying the plane was about to crash. The flight attendants tried to keep everyone calm, but even they knew they were in danger.
“Hold the plane, Dylan!” Rue shouted.
Dylan concentrated even harder, as the plane came ever closer to the ground…
A Rose Left Behind
Myra French was an only child, she lived with her mother and her grandmother. Myra’s father died in the military; he was in the Army. She was born in Yorktown, Virginia. Myra and her mother Georgia slept together in this little room, with two twin beds, a small table, a chair and a fire place. The room was cold, the house was back in the woods. Grandma’s house was built back in the 1800’s.
Grandma’s husband had passed away, and Grandma was a lone when Myra and her mother moved in. Myra’s grandparents, George and Emma Johnson, had been married for over 70 years. Grandma got married as a teenager. When Grandma got married, parents believed if you want to do a man’s act, like love making you need to be married, Grandma always said, you don’t get the milk for free. It would be some time before Myra would know what that meant. Myra and her mother lived in Newport News, Virginia. Grandma, lived in York County. Living was hard then, and single women with no education had a hard time getting jobs. Georgia cleaned houses for a living after her husband’s death.
Grandma’s house is warm and comfortable, each room had a fire place in it. The room that Myra and her Mom moved into was brown, cozy and Grandma made sure there was a radio. After dinner Myra and her mother would listen to the radio. Listening to the radio increased Myra’s imagination. Myra being the only child, didn’t have siblings to share her feelings with, or talk about girl things. Myra would listen to shows Little Orphan Annie, and Sherlock Holmes on the radio with her Grandma.
Christmas was approaching and Myra wanted to give a gift to her Mom and Grandma. Myra didn’t have much privacy, because she shared her room with her mother. Sometime Myra would go into the woods and sit on a tree stump and draw. The woods was filled with large white oak trees. Myra had an incredible talent for drawing. Grandma’s gift a black and white drawing of a picture of Grandma and Grandpa. For her mother she drew a picture of the house she dream of having some day. After dinner Myra, Grandma and her mother would listening to the radio.
Mr. Brown is a neighbor of Grandma‘s. He would come by from time to time to see if she needed a man’s help. The doorbell rang, Mr. Brown came by with a freshly cut Christmas tree and some candy canes. He set up the tree in the front room. The front room is where grandma stayed. Grandma had an extra bedroom that; Myra and her mother shared. The front room had a radio, a fireplace, a bed, a couch and a kitchenette area.
The Christmas tree was set up in the front room and when Myra came home from school, she could decorate the tree with candy canes. Grandma has a surprise for Myra this year. While Myra was away at school Grandma had made some popcorn balls. Grandma popped some popcorn and let it cool; she poured some corn syrup over some popcorn and rolled the popcorn in the small balls. Grandma placed the popcorn balls in some waxed paper. Grandma and Myra decorated the tree with the popcorn balls after dinner, while listening to the radio.
Listening to the radio after dinner; gave such a warm and comforting feeling. Listening to other people tell a story was so imaginative. Myra would think to herself, just how the people talking on the radio looked. The radio gave Myra a great listening skill.
When Myra got up in the morning, she had to walk to the main road to catch the bus. Myra was in High School and approaching her senior year. In Myra’s English class, the class had read about Alice Jackson. Alice Jackson was the first African American woman to apply for University of Virginia, in Petersburg in 1953, she was denied. Alice was 22 years old. The Virginia General Assembly passed the Dovell Act. Later Alice earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Virginia Union in Richmond. Alice then went on to Columbia University with a Master of Arts in English.
Jo Fuentes: The Black Queen
She sat at the table, with her head down; right ear pressed against the surface. Her eyes were open, staring straight ahead at the metal door. The room was a typical interrogation room: painted in that drab matte gray. No windows. No pictures. No contact with the outside world. Only silence. Beyond the door, she imagined people going about their business, doing their jobs. Filing paperwork. Making phone calls. People in their fatigues or “dress blues”. Maybe a handful of people in “civvies”. People who were moving around and doing important things, while she sat in a quiet little room, just waiting…
The door suddenly opened, and a man in uniform stepped inside. He was carrying a manila folder. She lifted her head and stood up from her seat, and saluted him. He nodded as he walked over to the table and took the seat across from her. He gestured for her to sit back down. Her eyes remained on his uniform as she seated herself. Marine. A Colonel. Bars. Awards. This guy seemed important.
“I’m Colonel Brantley,” he said. He set the folder on the table, and opened it. “It’s good to have you state-side, Lance Corporal Fuentes.”
“Thank you, sir,” she said. “But everyone calls me Jo.”
Brantley looked up at her through middle-aged gray eyes. “Jo, is it?” he said. “Jo. Okay, Jo. We need to talk about what happened. I’m going to ask you some questions, for my report. Is that okay with you?”
“Begging your pardon, sir,” Jo said, “But I thought a report had already been filed.”
“This is for my report,” Brantley clarified. “You see, what happened to you is a pretty extraordinary thing. I would like to know more about it.”
Jo shrugged her shoulders. “There’s nothing more for me to tell, sir,” she said. “We came under attack. Corporal Sullivan and I survived, and we’re both here in the states.”
Brantley looked down at the contents of the folder. He thumbed through a few documents, then looked at the eight-by-ten photos behind them. “I believe there’s more to it than that,” he said. He looked up at Jo. “Do you remember that day, Jo? Do you remember what happened?”
Jo stared ahead at him. Her face was still, but her mind was active. Images a Hummer, driving down a road in the Iraqi desert, her unit talking and laughing. Sullivan—Sully, as she called him—made a joke, and everyone laughed. Suddenly, no one was laughing. There was an explosion, followed by darkness…
She blinked at him, and furrowed her brow. “Yes, sir?”
“I asked you if you recalled anything strange happening before the explosion?”
Jo could feel her heart beating rapidly inside her chest. The explosion. The explosion…